Blue Ridge Mountain Meditation Retreat Aims To Bring Peace and Connection to Veteran and Service Members
Veterans are our greatest renewable resource. They are leaders, problem solvers, and team players who thrive in adversity. However, when they return home from their service, many struggle to fully re-integrate with their families, work life and community. It can be challenging for a Veteran to relate to the life they left behind after exposure to traumatic events, chronic stress and the adverse conditions they observe people existing in. When they come home, many experience a loss of camaraderie, mission, purpose and can’t relate to the ‘first world problems’ that civilians complain about. They are often on their own to process these feelings. If they reach out for help, they may be offered therapies that offer only partial or temporary relief, or pharmaceuticals that mask symptoms but have undesirable side effects. Veterans don’t want a handful of meds, they want relief. They want to feel like themselves again.
Recent data from Veterans Affairs now shows the number of Veterans diagnosed with PTSD has tripled from 2008 and in 2017, an estimated 940,000 Veterans are living with PTSD. Every day 20 Veterans in distress are taking their own lives. It is an epidemic that is impacting the individual Veteran, their family and community and ultimately, is a reflection of our country as a whole. If these men and women are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice by volunteering themselves for service in the United States Armed Services to serve and protect our country, isn’t it right that our communities honor these veterans and help them to receive the greatest possible support and care on their return?
More and more, veterans are seeking integrative health therapies that are demonstrated to be effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression. The SKY Breathing Meditation workshop, of Project Welcome Home Troops (PWHT), a program of the International Association for Human Values, is one of therapies gaining interest and attention from both the U.S. Armed Services and from the Veterans Administration (VA). PWHT’s multi-disciplinary workshop is offered free of cost to veterans and their immediate family members. In a few short days, they begin to feel relief from their symptoms, enjoying improved sleep quality & duration, better regulation of emotions, and an improved sense of wellbeing. After the five–day workshop, many also report feeling more peaceful within and have a healthier connection with the outside world.
From August 24 – 27th, Project Welcome Home Troops will bring nearly hundred of its Veteran alumni. Veterans from 20 states and the US Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands will come to the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, NC. for a weekend of meditation, being in nature and building camaraderie. These Veterans will become ambassadors and teachers for the program, ultimately leaders of PWHT – making the program their own and bringing it to their fellow Veterans across the country.
SKY Breathing Meditation is presently part of a clinical trial at the War Related Injury and Illness Study Center of the Palo Alto VA comparing SKY Breathing Meditation to Cognitive Processing Therapy, a common treatment for PTSD at the VA. In an earlier study of the workshop conducted with Veterans at the University of Wisconsin, Center for Healthy Minds and Stanford University, a statistically significant reduction in the symptoms of PTSD was noted. Follow-up data after one month, six months and a year showed that the improvements measured immediately following the workshop were sustained, indicating that the changes may be permanent.
The workshop begins to heal the invisible wounds of war and service. Changes begin to manifest for the Veteran outwardly, and include improved relationships and hope for the future. They welcome the reignited sense of camaraderie and report a desire to become a better spouse, parent and employee. Many of the veterans at the end of the workshop say, “I got myself back.” This workshop has the power to do for a veteran what years of medication or talk therapy may not be able to achieve.
The primary investigator at the VA clinical trial states, “The implication of this program is enormous. We may have the ability to reach and treat a whole group of Veterans in a significant, efficient and cost-effective way.”
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